Keto Diet: Ending Common Misconceptions - Nemours Blog


Keto Diet: Ending Common Misconceptions

The Ketogenic “keto” Diet has become popular over the last few years, growing in its popularity as a weight loss diet. The keto diet works by switching the body’s primary energy source from carbohydrates to fat. When enough fat is used for energy in the body, our bodies enter what is known as “ketosis.” There are many misconceptions about the ketogenic diet that we hope to debunk!

Myth 1: The Keto Diet is for Weight Loss

The keto diet has been used for weight loss in recent years. The common understanding of why this works is through increased satiety from eating a higher fat diet (and less simple carbohydrates) and the breakdown of stored fats in the body from lower calorie intake. While weight loss is possible when following a keto diet, it should be monitored by a knowledgeable registered dietitian and physician to make sure you stay healthy while eating a high fat diet. It is not recommended for children and teens to follow a keto diet for weight loss as it can deprive them of necessary proteins for muscle growth and carbohydrates for brain development.

The keto diet has been used to treat medical conditions such as epilepsy in children and teens for over 100 years. You can read more about that here. In more recent years the keto diet has been studied in use with certain types of cancer, mood disorders and even autism, but more research is needed before it is used as a widespread medical treatment for these types of conditions.

Myth 2: Carbohydrates Are Bad for You

This is the most common misconception about the keto diet! Carbohydrates or “carbs” are not bad for our bodies. Our brain and muscles use carbs as fuel for everyday work. There are different types of carbs that we can eat that are called simple or complex carbs. Let’s start with simple carbs- these are carbs that are broken down quickly by our body and used up quickly for energy. They are found in foods that are processed and have refined sugars. Complex carbs take a longer time be broken down due to their high fiber content and are used for longer lasting energy.

Less desirable weight gain is often the result of eating too many simple carbs. Since these foods are broken down quickly for energy, our body requires a higher amount of them to continue to fuel its everyday work leading to calorie intake beyond what our body needs. When we focus on eating foods with complex carbs, we are able to have a longer lasting energy for our bodies and more likely to eat the right amount of calories for our everyday work.

Myth 3: Any Low-Carb Food is Keto

The keto diet is a specific way of eating that focuses on high fat, moderate protein, and low carb intake. Some foods that say “low-carb” on the label may not have the necessary high fat component to make it a keto food. They also may contain sugar alcohols for added flavor and sweetness which can increase your blood sugar levels (even though its not made of sugar) and decrease ketone levels.

We hope that this helps to debunk some common misconceptions about the ketogenic diet! Please seek out an appointment with one of our registered dietitians if you are considering a ketogenic diet for your child or teen.

Robin Nuse Tome, RD, LDN

Manager of Clinical Nutrition Services at Nemours Children's Hospital in Wilmington, Del.